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Samoa News, in today’s issue, has reprinted a story from The Conversation entitled, “The pandemic has changed death rituals”. Reading the story, I could not but think of the report we published in our Monday issue, about a Pago family who is having to deal with their mother’s death as COVID-related, and their grief-filled response to the restrictions that are being enforced by LBJ Medical Center and the Department of Health.

One restriction is they’re unable to see their mother — her body — to say goodbye with the ritual washing and dressing of her in ‘Sunday-best’ or perhaps favorite outfit, before she is laid to rest. She will be in laid to rest in the clothes she suddenly died in, when she collapsed on her kitchen floor.

There was also no religious service held prior to her being taken into the morgue, another ritual  banned.

While understanding the COVID restrictions, Samoa News points to the need for a more compassionate approach to our grieving families, especially in our culture, where death is celebrated as part of our living memory — through cultural rituals that are our final farewells or “tautua” to our dearly departed.

While it may seem like a ‘bother’ to the professionals — so many other more important things to account for — final cultural farewell rituals could be the binding strengths that allow closure for our grieving families, in these fear-ridden COVID pandemic times.

Perhaps the local DoH can provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and specialized training for those performing the full-body washing of the body of a loved one in preparation for burial.

Or how about a prayer service with a very limited amount of people before the body enters the morgue?

These are trying times that necessitate restrictions, but not to the point of sacrificing our community or family well-being.

After all, aren’t we the first to jump on the bandwagon of cultural correctness, when our gift-giving rituals are seen as a form of corruption by outsiders.

Surely, our death rituals that imbue extraordinary meaning to the remembrance of our loved ones is something we should make an “extraordinary” effort to have happen, even if the rituals are adjusted to compromise with COVID restrictions.